Goan With The Flo

The release of Auntie Flo's first mini-album and the second anniversary of his global sound parties, Highlife, both take place this month and, as he tells us, these two events are intricately connected

Feature by Ronan Martin | 27 Apr 2012

Trawling through the new releases section of record shops and online distributors can be a thankless task at times. Too many artists and labels are content to peddle stale variations of tried and tested formulas with seemingly no effort having been made to keep things absorbing and inventive. Without a commitment to ingenuity and experimentation, electronic music can quickly become saturated with rather uninspiring material. A similar condition afflicts club nights, with many promoters looking for safe, certified crowd-pullers, often at the expense of real ingenuity.  

Thankfully, a lack of vibrancy isn’t a charge you could level at Auntie Flo, AKA Glasgow-based producer, DJ and promoter, Brian D’Souza. Over the space of two years, D’Souza has found himself a residency at Sub Club with his Highlife nights and has caught the attention of the likes of Ricardo Villalobos, Gilles Peterson and Caribou with last year’s Goan Highlife EP and the follow up single, 'Oh My Days. These tracks provided the first glimpses of an engaging style which skilfully marries elements of house, afrobeat and UK bass music. “The Auntie Flo project comes out of Highlife and what we are trying to do there. The two things fit nicely together,” says D’Souza. “With Highlife we’re trying to explore different music from around the world and I guess with Auntie Flo I’m trying to take inspiration from what we play at Highlife and create my own music from those influences.”

This month sees Huntleys and Palmers Audio Club release Future Rhythm Machine, an Auntie Flo mini album which develops and diversifies the artist’s sound. While the music he released last year was unmistakably club-oriented, this eight track offering showcases the Glaswegian’s flexibility and full range, merging rhythms and samples from African and South American music with features of contemporary house. “On every single track I’ve tried to show a different type of flavour. There’s fast tracks, slow tracks, ones that are really upbeat and ones that are more experimental. They’re all over the place but the idea was to make them all work together in some kind of coherent album format.”

That the album does have a coherent feel to it is quite an achievement considering the variety of styles it exhibits. The scope is broadened considerably with the inclusion of collaborations with Chilean singer Mamacita and South African Esa Williams, who is a regular at Glasgow’s Subculture and Sensu nights. The former lends mesmerising vocals to the summery La Samaria, while the latter is also a key contributor to Auntie Flo’s live setup, having impressed with a set at one of the Highlife parties. “I asked Esa to do the night but said we’d prefer him to play music from his homeland rather than his normal Subculture kind of set and he was totally into that. He was playing with a live percussion set up while he was DJing and the crowd was going absolutely mental.” 

“When I had a few releases, I wanted to do a live show but didn’t want it to just be me. I’m conscious of making live sets feel like a performance rather than just someone standing with a laptop and I really wanted to collaborate with someone. Esa was the obvious candidate. We always joke that he had forgotten that he was African and I have reminded him. So, he’s gone back to his roots a little bit.”

Having already launched the album at London’s Fabric club, and with launches coming up at La Cheetah and Sneaky Pete's, D’Souza is also preparing to mark the second birthday of Highlife later in the month. He remains focussed on creating unique parties and has been encouraged by the reactions he has had from crowds so far. “Glasgow is quite an open-minded place, music wise,” he explains. “That’s the best thing about the city, people are aware of music that exists outside of the most popular styles. Most people are quite open to ideas as long as it makes them dance and have a party. Highlife can definitely do that.”

True to the club’s ethos of experimentation, the birthday special will feature a set from William Bennett, the often controversial mind behind power electronics act, Whitehouse – a favourite of Optimo’s when they held the same Sunday slot as Highlife. Bennett will appear under new moniker, Cut Hands, offering a distinctive take on 'afro noise', which combines elements of African and Haitian percussion with experimental electronics. “The second birthday will be cool. It’s a bit of a curveball,” Brian enthuses. “It will be completely different. I think quite a lot of our crowd who usually come expecting to have a nice dance on a Sunday at the Sub Club will be like ‘what the hell is this?’ But that’s the point. We want to challenge people a little bit as well.” 

Auntie Flo launches Future Rhythm Machine on Sat 5 May at La Cheetah Club and on Sun 13 May at Sneaky Pete's Highlife's 2nd Birthday is on Sun 20 May featuring Cut Hands http://www.auntieflo.in